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Yearly on April Fool's Day, the constellation Cancer stands due south at 8 p.m. local time, reaching its highest point in the sky for the night. The Sun passes within its borders from July 21 to August 11. Although Cancer is the faintest constellation of the zodiac, it's nonetheless the easiest one to locate for the next few months. (No April Fools!)
At nightfall, look for the brightest star-like point of light that you can find, which is actually the planet Jupiter. High in the south, Jupiter easily outsines every star in the evening sky -- highlighting the dead center of Cancer, the crab, all through the month of April.
From a dark country site on a moonless night, you can still see the Praesepe with the unaided eye. It's the smudge of light to the immediate right of Jupiter from now till the end of May. Whether you see it or not with the eyes alone, chances are binoculars will transform the "little cloud" into a glittery array of stars. Today the Praesepe is more commonly known by its modern name: the Beehive star cluster.
Flanking the Beehive are two stars that represent the northern and southern donkeys of mythological lore. Jupiter placed them into the heavens, right next to the crib of hay which is the Praesepe or the Beehive star cluster.
Aim your binoculars at Jupiter to see it all within a single binocular field of view.
|Jupiter & Cancer Star Map|
|Another Jupiter & Beehive Feature|